I did not expend a lot of mental energy worrying about the US election, but not because I felt confident that the Joe Biden and the Democrats would easily win it. It’s simply because, after therapy, I have gotten better about not spending a lot of time worrying about things I have no control over. And as a Canadian, it’s really no control. I couldn’t vote, couldn’t donate, couldn’t campaign. Just watch it happen.
I was surprised how bummed I was by Tuesday night’s result. Because I’d still been reading up on the election (as avoidance also isn’t a particularly good strategy for managing worry)—and it was playing out exactly as predicted. That we would not have a definitive result that night. That Republicans were more likely than Democrats to vote in person, with those votes counted first, so the Trump side looking stronger initially—but with that changing as the mail-in ballots got counted. That the Democrats were very unlikely to take the Senate.
But those polls, eh? It was hard not to dream of Biden taking Texas, and Florida, and Lindsay Graham losing his seat. Repudiation! We wanted it! But we just had to sit with the uncertainty. (And my therapy module on tolerating uncertainty was not proving as useful as I’d like.)
I happened to be listening to a podcast called Hidden Brain on the topic of “moral convictions” and how they apply to politics:
Most of us have a clear sense of right and wrong. But what happens when we view politics through a moral lens? This week, we talk with psychologist Linda Skitka about how moral certainty can produce moral blinders — and endanger democracy.Hidden Brain: Moral Combat
Which definitely crystallized that I was doing that with this election. The list of Trump’s moral failings was just so long: racism, sexism, cruelty, environmental damage, theft, dishonesty… To vote for that, to me, is morally wrong. I was just bummed that so many Americans supported that.
The New York Times opined that this a really common sentiment for Canadians.
Since then, watching Mr. Trump politicize the coronavirus, vilify his opponents and attack democratic institutions, many Canadians say it has become a question of morality…
“Beyond despondent,” one reader wrote in a haiku competition hosted by The Toronto Star. “That so many support his bigotry and hate.”Catherine Porter
Of course, per podcast, it’s not really that black and white? Some Trump supporters are so steeped in conspiracy theories that they see a vote for Biden as the morally wrong choice—there’s a reason QAnon picked child abuse as the supposed crime that Trump was supposedly preventing the Democrats from committing—what could be more repugnant? (The whole Q thing is so truly bonkers, isn’t it…) Then there’s your pro-choice people who make a moral choice on that issue above all else.
And, not everyone even sees a vote as moral choice at all. They just consider policies, like, lower taxes. Or they might not like Trump’s “tone”, but just find Biden too “liberal”. Party affiliation is a thing in the US the way it just isn’t in Canada—there are apparently registries there of whether people are Democrat, Republican, or Independent?
We don’t have that here.
Of course, for the die-hards (so visible, those die-hards), Trump’s corrosive approach and how upsetting others find it is exactly what they love. It’s exciting! The New York Times profiled such a voter this weekend:
he spent the past few months campaigning for President Trump, taking special satisfaction in offending Biden supporters.Ellen Barry
These last two groups, by the way, I judge as morally wrong, to some degree. I just can’t see this vote any other way! We all have our blinkers.
Of course, as predicted, things just started to look better here as more votes were counted. It was interesting, as following this largely on Twitter, I was increasingly confident that Biden had this. But Jean was looking at the raw numbers, alarmed, and reporting back how close everything still was.
I follow political scientists and respected journalists on Twitter; I was pretty sure they knew what they were talking about. But still, Jean would say but it’s so close, and I’d go digging to find out why the Twitter folks felt confident. I always found solid data—which I shared with Jean. I would then find the more cautious mainstream news approach a bit puzzling.
To most of the world, the confirmation occurred Saturday. To me, it was on Friday.
(“But it’s not official yet, is it?” whispered Jean.)
Called it, and we partied, and it was a beautiful day, too…
But I must admit the whole thing was tempered by more local news. Ontario’s also running an experiment in having elected a plain-spoken businessman with little political experience to lead the province. Fortunately, he did not turn out to be a narcissistic sociapath, and he did surprisingly well in managing the first wave of the pandemic.
But the second…. Hoo boy. Hard not to notice that each day more Ontarians are getting sick and dying… And that this isn’t much of an exaggeration of his “plan” for dealing with it (such is his reluctance to actually shut down any businesses):
Ford’s new tiered pandemic system politely suggests a change in business hours if all your customers are hospitalized or dead.Barney Panofsky
So I was glad America was there to lift me up (man, haven’t said that in four years) Saturday night with some excellent speeches (such eloquence, such decency) and still-improving vote counts.
Morally, America looks better than it had initially. The vote wasn’t really that close. That turnout–in the middle of a pandemic–was inspiring. And it’s so tough to remove an incumbent. Yet Biden took Arizona! And Georgia! (Is that official yet? I don’t even know.) And more votes than any Presidential candidate in history.
But because our expectations were set by a raft of overheated polling… the idea took hold that Trump’s mean brand of nativism hadn’t repulsed a clear majority of Americans.
In fact, it had. There was a clear message that what we think of as Trumpism — the cult of personality, the white nostalgia, the contempt for all institutions and rule of law — isn’t a viable national strategy, and will only become less so.
As a friend of mine put it, the repudiation wasn’t really overwhelming or underwhelming. It was just whelming enough.Yes, Trump was repudiated, Washington Post
I just found the above tweet, but seriously, before and after the speeches Saturday night, we watched The Notebook!
Just like the election, you’ll want to make it to the ending. It’s worth it!